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Washington High Court Sides With Non-Card-Carrying Medical Marijuana Patient


The Washington Supreme Court has sided with a wheelchair-bound pot user who lacked an official medical marijuana card. In a split ruling Thursday, the high court said even non-card-holding patients can mount a medical necessity defense at trial.

The case involves an Olympia man named William Kurtz. He’s paralyzed because of a hereditary condition. In 2010, the police raided Kurtz’s home and found marijuana plants. He was charged with manufacturing and possession and convicted.

Kurtz had never obtained a medical marijuana card. So at trial he was not allowed to make the case that he needs pot for his medical condition. The Washington Supreme Court says the lower court erred.

“It’s for those few people who fall through the cracks and haven’t complied by crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s as to the medical marijuana act," says Seattle attorney Suzanne Lee Elliott, who represented Kurtz in his appeal. "But believe me you are far better off to go see your doctor, comply with the law and have your documentation in order.”

But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Susan Owens said she sympathizes with William Kurtz, but adds this medical necessity defense is no longer appropriate because patients in Washington have a legal way to grow and use medical marijuana.

On the Web:

Opinion: State of Washington v. Kurtz - Washington Supreme Court 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."